Saturday 18 November 2017

O'Connor aiming to cement position

Hugh Farrelly

NIALL O'CONNOR will seek to further cement his status as first-choice out-half at Ulster when they take on Aironi in Viadana this evening (6.05).

The 23-year-old starts at 10 for the fourth match in succession with his main rival Ian Humphreys not even making the bench, as centre Paddy Wallace can cover the position if required.

O'Connor kicked the points that secured Ulster their opening Magners League win over the Ospreys last week and Wallace's inclusion ahead of Ian Whitten is the only change to the back line.

Tom Court starts at loose-head ahead of Brian Young and Nigel Brady starts in place of injured hooker and captain Rory Best.

With Stephen Ferris unavailable, Pedrie Wannenburg moves to blind-side and Robbie Diack starts at No 8, with Chris Henry making his seasonal debut at open-side.

While having Henry back is good news for Irish rugby, that South African pair Wannenburg and Diack are keeping Willie Faloon out of the starting side is less helpful.

Aironi are sticking with the same team that performed well in losing to Munster last weekend but have flanker Josh Sole and scrum-half Pablo Canovosio back on the bench.

The Italians will be determined to make an impression in their first home fixture and the likes of Johann Muller and Wannenburg will need to watch their discipline. This has all the makings of another close affair and the boot of Aironi out-half Ludovic Mercier could prove to be the match-winner.

Verdict: Aironi

AIRONI -- J Laharrague; G Rubini, T Quartaroli, D des Fountain, G Toniolatti; L Mercier, T Tebaldi; Alberto de Marchi, F Ongaro, S Perugini; C Del Fava, Q Geldenhuys (capt); J Erasmus, G Krause, N Williams. Reps: Andrea De Marchi, L Ferraro, L Redolfini, M Bortolami, J Sole, P Canavosio, A Benettin, G Pizarro.

ULSTER -- A D'Arcy; T Seymour, D Cave, P Wallace, D McIlwaine; N O'Connor, P Marshall; T Court, N Brady, D Fitzpatrick; J Muller (capt), T Barker, P Wannenburg, C Henry, R Diack. Reps: A Kyriacou, B Young, P McAllister, R Caldwell, W Faloon, I Porter, I Whitten, J Smith.

REF -- D Jones (Wales).

Irish Independent

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